Book of the Month: September 2016

9780745970455webChrist: The First 2000 Years by Martyn and Esther Whittock

This book is the subject of a life’s work which one would expect to result in a very large tome or even a series of books. Martyn and Esther have achieved an enthralling jog through 2000 years of history and theology using their skills as educators in history and theology. They ‘present a fascinating account that will enlighten even the most well-informed reader.’ Dr John Drane

They blow away any misconceptions that ancient history is dull or that theology is too difficult.. Martyn’s experience in writing textbooks for schools is evident in the clarity of chronology and signposting and Esther’s theological study results in ensuring that theological words and ideas are fully explained. However, there is plenty of challenge for the theologically literate and historically aware.

The introduction to the book is an indicator that the approach to the subject is a creative and original one, referring to five particular approaches to looking at Christ which made a particular impression on the authors. The focus is on ‘Christ’ the title associated with Jesus [earthly name] which is the Greek word used in the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible for the Jewish word ‘Messiah’ and the idea of ‘the anointed one’. An idea that was in evidence long before it was attached to Jesus. The chapters lead the reader from the earliest evidence of Christology in Acts and Paul’s Letters; the Gospels; the Creeds and then down through the centuries and the significant events such as the Reformation and the Enlightenment leading to reflection on Christ in other world religions and in modern times across cultures. The clarity of explanation is very helpful and enables the reader to keep up with the fast pace of the writing. Each section is full of hints of what is to come and invitations to the reader to go deeper and investigate further, with scholars well referenced. Each chapter deserves to be read and then reflected on rather than rushing on to the next.

The structure of the book is original in that having explained what and who Christ is in the early centuries, the reader is led to think not only in words but also through visual images of the portrayal of Christ. The artworks are well referenced to enable the reader to look up the pictures. It is ‘packed with examples drawn from the history of art, popular culture, theology and politics’.

Who is this book for? ‘An essential book for the thinking believer’ Derek Wilson and it is also a book that ‘both Christians and non-Christians can read and gain much from’ Dr Andrew Chester.

The book reflects the passions of the writers, Martyn and Esther for their subjects of history and theology and their desire to apply this to help people to understand more about the relevance of faith in Jesus Christ throughout the centuries including our own.

The most fascinating and accessible, yet challenging theological book I have read for a long time. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Revd Heather Waldsax

Buy Christ: The First 2000 Years at a special price of £8.50 in the shop (posted out for free) or buy online for £6.50 + postage until 30 September 2016. RRP £9.99.

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